Melissa Ohden went through an abortion and lived to tell about it.
That might not sound noteworthy in an era when more than 3,000 women a day have an abortion. But Melissa was the baby, not the mother.
In 1977, at approximately seven months gestation, Melissa was the target of a saline infusion abortion. She wasn’t supposed to survive. She did. Now a married mother with a master’s degree in social work, she speaks about abortion from the child’s perspective.
That perspective should have gotten much more media coverage recently as abortionist Kermit Gosnell went on trial for murder. For three decades, Gosnell conducted thousands of late-term abortions in squalid conditions at an address that should live in infamy: 3801 Lancaster Ave., Philadelphia, Pa.
Prosecutors and former clinic staff estimate that hundreds of these abortions — some of them performed beyond Pennsylvania’s 24-week limit — did not achieve their desired end. They resulted instead in live births.
In the city that birthed a nation founded on the basic human right to life, Gosnell routinely denied life to these infants who survived botched abortions in his unsanitary clinic, prosecutors said.
He is accused of first-degree murder in the deaths of at least seven newborns. He and his employees used a gruesome technique to kill infants who survived late-term abortions, referring to it as a means to "ensure fetal demise," prosecutors said.
Gosnell’s grisly practices expose the tenuous logic of "choice" pushed to its extreme.
That same shakiness was on display in March when a Planned Parenthood representative fumbled to respond to Florida lawmakers’ questions. She had just testified against a state bill that would require abortion doctors to provide emergency care for infants born after a failed procedure.
"If a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion," one legislator asked during the hearing, "what would Planned Parenthood want to have happen to that child that is struggling for life?"
The Planned Parenthood official responded with an antiseptic party line: "We believe that any decision that’s made should be left up to the woman, her family and the physician," she said.
After public outcry at such tacit endorsement of infanticide, the local Planned Parenthood affiliate walked back the statement while downplaying the possibility of a child’s surviving an abortion as merely a hypothetical.
"In the extremely unlikely event that the scenario presented by the panel of legislators should happen," reads the affiliate’s statement, "of course Planned Parenthood would provide appropriate care to both the woman and the infant."
The criminal case against Gosnell suggests hundreds of instances of such an "extremely unlikely event" occurred in his clinic alone.
The lives of Melissa Ohden and hundreds of other men and women bear witness to the inconvenient reality confronting pro-choice activists. "It is not as rare as you might want to think," Ohden says, urging such activists to meet with her and other abortion survivors, "who could tell you how much more likely circumstances like ours are."
That’s why, in 2002, bipartisan majorities in Congress passed the federal Born-Alive Infant Protection Act. The law extends legal protections to newborn babies, including those who survive botched abortions. Dozens of states have introduced (as in Florida) or enacted (as in Pennsylvania) similar measures.
Late-term abortions, especially of the kind that might result in live births, make Americans uneasy. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed generally oppose abortion in the second trimester of pregnancy; 80 per cent oppose third-trimester abortions.
Even so, many activists seem blinded by an unquestioning allegiance to the "right to choose," unable to see any limits under any circumstance.
As an Illinois state senator, President Barack Obama repeatedly opposed state legislation patterned after the federal "born alive" law to protect infants born as a result of a failed abortion. In the 10 years since, we haven’t heard much about that extreme view.
Nor have we heard much about Kermit Gosnell’s house of horrors, even as the abortionist stood trial for murder in recent weeks. A near blackout of coverage in "mainstream" media — amid a storm of horrified attention on social media — has shown those news outlets to be out of sync with the views of mainstream America.
No question this is a difficult, troubling topic. How much more troubling for our conscience, however, if we failed to discuss it.
Jennifer A. Marshall is director of The Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, where Sarah Torre is a policy analyst.
—McClatchy Tribune Services